-In The Press - Elvis: Behind The Image - Volume 2 - Book

Book - Review, taken from the "Graceland"
agazine Nr. 165 (July / August 2005)
German Elvis Presley Society

If you want to get in contact with the author of the clipping or are interested in a membership please use the website of the German Elvis Presley Society: www.EPG-ev.de

By Maria Hesterberg - Translation by Nadine Schwenk

Did you ever wonder how it was to be photographed all the time ? Being all the time surrounded by people, who have nothing to do but taking pictures of you ? Elvis Presley is arguably the only huge entertainer who never became tired of being photographed together with his fans. Just for this patience he has deserved a platinum award. But how do you review a book which consists to 90% of photos in a way, that the reader can imagine the content of the book. Let's have a try. With "Elvis Behind The Image", shortly "BTI" a series began in 2003 which will bring the Elvis world hopefully a lot of releases in the future. As the title undoubtedly clarifies the reader shall get an insight view of the life of Elvis Presley behind the curtains. Who owns the first part already knows the background of the material. Who doesn't own the first part shall get an introduction here: The two Behind The Image books are mainly based upon photographs from the collections of Bud Glass, Russ Howe and Sandi Miller, who also allows the fans an insight in her diaries. The photos are mainly unpublished and show Elvis mostly in private aside from stages and studios.
"Elvis Behind The Image, Volume 2", released in July 2005, has 144 pages with more than 500 b/w and colored pictures. The hardcover and the DIN A4 format makes the book good to handle. The paper and print quality is first class. Although the BTI products are especially popular on the German market, also the second part will be in English. Maybe the authors and publishers should be geared to other releases of the past, which were published bilingual and by that surely had a bigger audience. Because even if the photos are reason enough to buy "BTI2", the non-English reader misses a lot.

The preface was written by the "beautiful high voice" Kathy Westmoreland, who accompanied Elvis from August 1970 to June 1977 on concerts and was his beloved from time to time. But the more interesting piece of text comes from Sandi Miller: She describes in easy words that Elvis influenced her life a lot but never became her only purpose in life. Sandi describes shortly the transformation she had gone through at the time when she had intensive contact with Elvis. From a die-hard fan to a woman who got, through the collective experiences, an insight into Elvis's world only a few people on earth had. Insights that made her realize that even the biggest entertainer of the 20th century was only a human being! But she also tells the reader that Elvis was often worried about his fans: especially when they - in his opinion - exaggerated it with their adoration and aligned their complete life to his shooting and concert plan and nearly lived in front of his house. Something impresses me especially in Sandi's statements as a fan and reader. Something that probably a lot of us feel: " If I could do it again, I would put more attention to everything, the bad things as well as the good things… I think I took too much as a matter of course. Because I always thought he would always be there, that there would always be a 'next time'".

While the focus of the first book is Elvis's houses on the west coast and his stays there, this book deals with the general memories of his fans und the according photos: There is something for everybody. The 50s and 60s as well as the 70s are documented photographically. Very felicitous is the layout of the memory reports: color- stepped and in the style of a personal handwriting they are easy to distinguish from the regular explanations. Unfortunately there is also a downer. Not all of these memories can be clearly assigned to an author. Names under the texts would have been nice and would have enabled a quick identification. The photos in "BTI2" accompany Elvis's career until the day of his funeral but the artist and entertainer Elvis is not in the focus. He is barely shown in the glamorous environment of the show business but more likely in a kind of backstage atmosphere. From time to time you can even talk about private moments.

The first 23 pages cover the years 1956-63 and present, with two exceptions, only b/w photos. But especially the Elvis expert knows to appreciate such photos, because they bribe only because of the motive: Elvis in person! Gail Sanders, a member of the Fan-Club "The Presleyettes" remembers the time and tells that Elvis humor on stage was unbeatable. She confesses that surely not everybody understood his jokes, and that he had the most fun nearly lying on the floor due to laughing. Besides that she tells that she always knew where Elvis was when he was on the west coast and under which name he had checked in which hotel, due to Tom Diskin, "Colonel" Parker's assistant. (Not bad, is it ?). So he used during the shooting of "Love Me Tender" the name Clint Reno. I can't keeo back one anecdote from this memories to the readers of GRACELAND:
Gail also had telephonic contact to Elvis when he was in Los Angeles and so Elvis called back one day having not her but her mother on the phone. Elvis greeted her with a loose and happy "Hi, mom!" and Mrs. Sanders was shortly before unconsciousness. The according photos show us Elvis with his motorcycle cap and the green-blue bolero (despite b/w we can recognize the color"), which is corded at the sleeves and front pocket. The pictures which were taken in 1957 of Elvis show through some of the outer arrogance for which Elvis - especially in the early years - was criticized a lot. But with tie and collar he makes a rather attractive impression on me. What do you think dear female readers ?

The 60s are mainly documented with photos showing Elvis in California. If you look at the pictures very intensively and read some of the reports the coincidences are near and not nearly 40 years away! A lot of designer would love this photos ! We see Elvis in outfits that are sometimes more sportive-dressed down, sometimes more trendy and just elegant and chic. No matter what they are - they are always Elvis ! This photos prove the statements of many persons around Elvis, which all remember independent from each other, that Elvis was always dressed very well. He put great attention to his physical appearance and probably never went "unprepared" out of the house. Also other are well prepared for a meeting with the King, as this story proves: "In spring of 1968 Elvis was just shooting "Live A Little Love A Little" in Hollywood. When the shooting began at the Citizen News building, some people gathered before it to watch the location shots. Some people noticed that a woman, also standing there, had an usual deep voice. After a closer look they noticed that "she" also needed a shave. It didn't take long to realize that this was really a man wearing a dress, green pantyhose and a blonde wig.
After the director had finished the scene, Elvis took some time to greet his fans and to allow them to take pictures. While the other fans were waiting, the "blonde woman" went to Elvis and laid his arm around him. Due to all the people Elvis didn't realize who was beside him and also laid his arm around "her" for a photograph. Another fan took this pictures and later showed it to Priscilla and Patsy, who were rolling on the floor laughing and couldn't wait to kid Elvis with it. The other day Elvis came and asked the photographer for the picture. After looking at it carefully he asked: "Are you sure this was a man ?" she answered: "yes he needed a shave!" Elvis shook his head and said: " I don't know, honey…!"

Not only because of the according dates to the pictures but also due to the following photos the Elvis expert sees that the pictures are getting closer to the legendary 1968 Comeback show. Elvis changed. He changed to the man who would shortly show the whole world, that he is still the undisputed number 1 and is not going to leave this place during the next time. If anyone still doubts this, please look at the pictures in this book: We can see a human, who is content with himself and his decisions and - despite all the nervousness before the big event - is emanating a self-confidence which can hardly be beaten.

A special photographic goody from the 70s are the b/w pictures showing Elvis in unusual outfits and in unusual company (Page 106/107): Even in a simple white shirt with turned up sleeves this guy still looks fantastic. But who does he meet at the gate of his Hillcrest Home ? There is really an impersonator of the first generation ! How is this scene being described ? "It was funny watching Elvis's face talking with this guy and it was very weird to see them side by side…!" Look at Elvis's face yourself and you know that every word is needless. Unfortunately it would extend this review to much, to repeat all the impressions, experiences and memories of the persons in the book. There would be a lot more interesting material worth mentioning, which intensifies the look behind the image: Jean-Marc Gargiulo, founder of the "Treat Me Nice" fan club in France, who saw Elvis several times on and back stage; Livio Monari, the founder of the first Italian fan club who saw 14 Elvis shows and also met him back stage; or just the anecdotes Sandi Miller tells us.


Of course there are a lot of illustrated books within the Elvis literature but the BTI series has a special charm. It is not primarily the professional realisation but the fact that photographs are being brought into a textual, temporal and local context so that the gain even more fascination. Although the linguistic one-sidedness might be hindering to certain people is "Behind The Image, Vol. 2" a big enrichment for every Elvis collection. I'm already looking forward to the third part.

© 2005 by Elvis Presley Gesellschaft

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